The USA Cricket Men’s U-19 National Championships blasted off today in Houston, Texas with three group stage games: Mid-Atlantic vs Colts, Southwest vs Midwest, and the day’s YouTube-featured South vs West Zone Blues.
Mid-Atlantic Zone vs Colts
Much anticipation and discussion has surrounded the Colts since the announcement of team rosters, especially regarding their captain, Slade Van Staden of South Africa’s Hilton College. With the reaction on social media from some South Africa supporters, it looked as if the Colts could have a star to anchor the team. Would Slade be able to overcome the challenge of a new wicket, and the pressure of captaining a team of unfamiliar players from all corners of the American landscape (and beyond)?
The Colts started their first game of the USA Cricket national championships with promise, thanks in part to the fiery captain’s 55 runs from 63 balls before he was bowled by Ritwik Behera. But Slade wasn’t the only half-centurion for Colts. Rishi Shimpi opened the batting with 50 from 67, and Rishi Ramesh partnered with the captain and later Arjun Vajjala (27 from 33) to score 59 from 61 and set a strong target of 278/6.
Things would have been worse for the Mid-Atlantic Zone, had it not been for the economical bowling of Varun Mantha, who took two wickets across 8 overs for 39 runs, and Yasir Mohammad, who surrendered 32 across his 8 overs. The Mid-Atlantic dug deep into their attack, using eight different bowlers, but none had the steady success of Mantha and Mohammad.
Apparently, that was good enough for the Mid-Atlantic Zone. In spite of a rocky start that had them at 101/4, the Mid-Atlantic put together an innings that will be tough to top going forward. Needing 178 to win in 26 overs, DC metro area teammates Ishan Sharma and Ritwik Behara partnered for 124 runs, before Behera was given out LBW to Shimpi for 61 off 51. Sharma hung in and eventually smacked the winning runs with five balls to spare, scoring 92 runs from 89 balls in the process.
Nihal Desai gave the Mid-Atlantic Zone a scare early on, taking wickets of Akhil Thuremella, Pranav Rao, and Yasir Mohammad, putting the Colts in the driver’s seat. But it wasn’t enough to kill the chase, and Sharma’s huge innings made him the clear top star.
The high drama for the day was monopolized by the Colts and the Mid-Atlantic Zone, as the South Zone made short work of the West Zone Blues, winning by six wickets in a game that went only 51 overs, and the Southwest Zone topped the Midwest Zone by a whopping 228 runs.
Southwest Zone vs Midwest Zone
Southwest, essentially the home team for the tournament, got a steady start from Ahan Bhakare (44 runs from 64) and Rehman Dar (33 runs from 40). Ali Sheikh (59 from 44) and Mihir Cherukupalli (53 from 59) each lifted their bats for half centuries. Hrrit Hinge added a run per ball 45, and Abhimanyu Poswal (33 from 21) and Josh Saripella (23 from 17) added 57 without loss to close the innings at 348/7.
The Midwest Zone couldn’t find the right formula, but leg-spinner Tejas Vishal performed admirably, going for 58 in his 10 overs while claiming key wickets of Aharn Bhakare and Ali Sheikh.
The Midwest perhaps lacked the experience on Houston’s turf wickets to hang around with the home team, and were knocked over for 120 runs in 37.4 overs, giving the South West Zone a whopping 228 run victory.
Andwar Ali, batting in the number eight spot, put up a fight for the losing side, scoring 34 from 68 balls, but the Midwest Zone couldn’t compete with the bowling of Soorya Selvakumar (7.4 overs, 20 runs, 4 wickets), Abhiram Valisammagari (8 overs, 2 maidens, 16 runs, 1 wicket), Abhimanyu Poswal (6 overs, 1 maiden, 17 runs, 2 wickets) and Ali Sheikh (6 overs, 1 maiden, 10 runs).
South Zone vs West Zone Blues
The shortest game of Day 1 of USA Cricket national championships, between the South Zone and the West Zone Blues, was also the only game live streamed on YouTube.
The South won the toss and elected to bowl, and it paid off big from the start. Abhiram Bolisetty (4 overs, 1 maiden, 16 runs, 1 wicket) and Atteendra Subramanian (4.5 overs, 10 runs, 2 wickets) teamed up to put the Blues in a hole, 17/2 by the sixth over, with Yashahwi Gautom and Sahil Kancherla (somewhat controversially) caught behind by wicket keeper Aryan Shah.
Rajveer Khosa and Ryaan Baghani teased a Blues comeback, partnering for 42 runs, until the double sided off-break combo of left arm Elton Tucker Jr and right arm Danush Kaveripakam mercilessly took over the game. The South Zone captain kept himself and Tucker Jr in the attack for 20 consecutive, ruthless overs.
From the 11th over through the 31st over, West Zone Blues saw only Kaveripakam and Tucker Jr. After Blues top-scorer Rajveer Khosa (27 from 50) was given out LBW to Kaveripakam in the 18th over, the dominoes fell. Danush Kaveripakam (10 overs, 1 maiden, 18 runs, 3 wickets) and Elton Tucker Jr. (10 overs, 25 runs, 4 wickets) left the West Zone Blues only one wicket to spare when the dust settled, and Subramanian took the final scalp five balls later to limit the target to 95.
With a potentially short chase ahead of them, opener Rohan Phadke put away every loose ball in a hurry, scoring 31 off of 20 balls before being given out LBW to spinner Aakashveer Saini. In spite of some solid bowling figures from Saini (5 overs, 1 maiden, 19 runs, 1 wicket), Akhilesh Swamy (3 overs, 14 runs, 1 wicket), Sahil Kancherla (2 overs, 6 runs, 1 wicket), and Aksha Shah (2 overs, 8 runs, 1 wicket), Abhiram Bolisetty steadied the ship for the South Zone and scored 26 not out to safely sail home, winning by six wickets.
In addition to being one of the standout players of the game for the South, Kaveripakam also gets credit from his coach for captaining sensibly and sticking to the plan.
‘The changes he made, he already had it in his mind. We were in sync, and that is good for the team,’ South Zone’s coach Rohaan Gosala told Emerging Cricket.
‘He’s taking things easy, he’s not overwhelming himself. The senior players in the team are helping as well. Abhiram (Bolisetty) and Viraj (Vaghela), they’re having fun and working as one unit.’
Tuesday will see the South Zone take on the Mid-Atlantic Zone at 9:30am local time, and the East Zone face the West Zone Reds at 10am. Stay tuned for more!
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